Man behind Ice Bucket Challenge gets his voice back

Tech helps man get his voice back

NEW YORK — One of the men who to helped start the Ice Bucket Challenge is speaking out about ALS, even after the disease took his voice. Now, a new program could help other people make their voices heard, CBS New York reports.

Four years ago, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. Thousands participated, starting with Pat Quinn, who co-founded the fundraising and awareness campaign.

He became a leading voice of ALS after he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a progressive neurodegenerative illness affecting nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain.

"ALS is a tough disease. It's not very well known," Quinn said. "Creating awareness and being an advocate is what I wanted to do."

He spoke out over and over again until the disease took his voice.

Pat Quinn CBS New York

But Quinn didn't let this stop him. Using eye tracking technology, he continued his advocacy work online. He even reached out to CBS New York's Mary Calvi on Twitter to let her know about a development that's giving him his voice back.

A technology program called Project Revoice recreated his voice from recordings of his many speeches and interviews.

His family and friends recently gathered to hear him speak again in his own voice.

"Sorry, I'm not going out that easy," he said during the gathering. "I will make sure my voice is heard again. Guess who's back, b****."

"To be able to hear him ask, talk — we'll watch a game or something and he'll say, 'wow, did you see that?' or something — it's almost like we can have a conversation now," his father said.

"Now, this enables him to go out, to speak more, to use his voice, to be that leader of the ALS community that he is," said Brian Frederick of the ALS Association.

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $220 million. Research funded by the campaign has identified several genes linked to ALS, and now work on potential treatments are advancing.

"The Ice Bucket Challenge started that hope, but we need to push harder until people are living with this disease not just dying from it," Quinn said.

Money raised is now making the revoice technology available at no cost to all ALS patients to allow them to record their voice before it's gone.

"Now with my voice back, I feel like I just got a little piece of me back," Quinn said.

Quinn speaks in Washington, D.C. this week, where he is using his voice to push for more research to find a cure.